Friday, April 29, 2011

A Feminist Revisits Polygamy

Jessica Mack has followed up on her “Is Polygamy Inherently Bad for Women?” She looked back at the Canadian poly trial…

So what’s the takeaway? First, I think the disparity in stories should suggest a re-focus from persecution of the general (polygamy writ large) to accountability for the particular (instances of abuse). It’s irresponsible to allow one voice or story to stand for many, especially when it comes to survivors. For example, Carolyn Jessop’s famously singular memoir about being a polygamous wife of Warren Jeffs certainly stands, but should do so on its own.

Moreover, I think it’s important to remember that the stories of abuse and oppression emerging have been happening already, right under the nose of Canadian and US law enforcement officials, and under laws that already criminalize polygamy. Perhaps what these testimonies should point out first and foremost is the failure of the Canadian state to implement its laws and protect its women.

She picks apart the prejudiced attacks on the polygamous freedom to marry…

Their assertion that: “the greater prevalence of monogamy has gone hand in hand with the gradual rise of democracy” is nothing more than an axiom (which I’d like a citation for); It is not a compelling argument to me for why polygamy is inherently wrong.

If there is a timeline correlation, it does not establish causation.

If Canada and the US have failed thus far at protecting their citizens experiencing abuse in polygamous communities, couldn’t de-criminalizing it offer our systems a second chance to step up and protect women’s rights?

Yes. Bring polygamy out of the shadows so that good citizens aren’t prosecuted and don’t fear the authorities simply because they are married to more than one spouse or are married to someone who is. That will make it easier to bust abusers, because more victims and witnesses will come forward.

Go read the whole thing. Artificially and externally limiting a woman's choices in marriage in no way protects her. Denying a child's parents a legal marriage may disadvantage the child.

Erik comments truthfully…

It would be extremely dangerous – and indeed on par with the anti-gay marriage camp – to say that there is any type of relationship arrangement that is inherently bad for either men or women (or indeed children). Polygamy or polyamory, monogamy or cuckoldry, the fairness etc. of these relationships really depends on the specific situation and those involved – consent, equality, etc. The media is right to out those situations where coercion or abuse is occurring, but they shouldn’t extrapolate to a general criticism of a relationship type.

Thank you, Erik!
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